ROME — Bettino Craxi's Socialist Party on Friday rejected Christian Democrat Giulio Andreotti's bid to form a new government, virtually torpedoing the attempt before it got under way.
Andreotti, 67, five times prime minister in the 1970s and a 43-year veteran of Italy's stormy politics, was asked Thursday by President Francesco Cossiga to try to form a new government to solve the crisis caused by Craxi's June 27 resignation. He resigned after a defeat in Parliament over a finance bill.
The president turned to Andreotti after Senate President Amintore Fanfani, 78, failed in an "exploratory" mission to try to solve a dispute between the Christian Democrats and Socialists over the premiership.
Craxi's Socialists hold the balance of power in Italy's Parliament, and nobody can form a majority government without them except by accepting Communist Party support, which political commentators consider unthinkable because of their minor status and isolation.
"Ambush in Parliament'
"It is not a 'no' to Andreotti as a person, but it is a 'no' to the way in which this candidature emerged, in the wake of an ambush in Parliament," Claudio Martelli, the Socialist Party's deputy secretary, told reporters as he emerged from a 90-minute meeting of the party executive committee.
"Instead of consolidating the coalition and a government that everybody considers did a good job, the Christian Democrat party has taken advantage of the situation to claim in a brutal and unilateral way its own predominance in the political life of the country and also in the leadership of the government," he said.
Andreotti, who was foreign minister in Craxi's five-party coalition government, participated in a Friday meeting of the Christian Democrat national council, which approved a document pledging the party's intention to "overcome the differences that have emerged" and restore the five-party coalition to power with Andreotti at its head.
Andreotti had planned to begin his formal round of consultations with party leaders on Monday, but the Socialist vote Friday appeared to doom the effort.
The Socialists insist they will only accept Craxi's return as prime minister. The Christian Democrats have said they will only agree to his return for another year or two in exchange for a guarantee that a Christian Democrat prime minister will follow--which the Socialists angrily call "impossible and unacceptable."
Desire to Keep Coalition
All members of the coalition--Christian Democrats, Socialists, Republicans, Social Democrats and Liberals--have declared their strong desire to maintain the coalition that Craxi held in power for nearly three years and the longest-lasting of Italy's 44 governments since World War II.
All five parties have stressed the need to avoid premature elections, which could be called if the deadlock persists.
Craxi told reporters after the meeting: "The crisis has been pushed into a blind alley. We will do what we can to pull it out, but it will not be easy."